Anyone who is thinking about a job change as an average frustrated employee should urgently attend a budget debate. The chances are good that you will then be able to get positive out of your job again. For example on Thursday in the state parliament: lots of numbers, tired faces – the plenary session will last almost eleven hours. In between 5.15 p.m., take a short break. Josef Schmid sits in the hallway to the academy hall and compensates for the sugar-free cola with a chocolate bar. “Very demanding,” he says of his mandate.
His second job is less demanding. At least in terms of time and if what the CSU MP says is correct: that his first job in the state parliament accounts for around 90 percent of his working time. The rest he works as a lawyer in a major Munich law firm. In addition to Schmid, there are 25 lawyers in the state parliament. No profession is represented more often. And no one is currently being viewed with such suspicion. Politicians are currently experiencing a crisis of confidence, says Schmid, “and the lawyers in particular”. Whereby he could also say “the CSU” instead of “politics”.
More and more CSU politicians are suspected of greed, including two lawyers: Alfred Sauter, who is being investigated against corruption in connection with a mask deal. He was supposed to collect 1.2 million euros. And now also Peter Gauweiler, who runs a law firm with Sauter. He is neither being investigated nor is he suspected of corruption, a clear difference. But lawyer Gauweiler also got a lot of money in his parliamentary term from 2008 to 2015: consultant fees, more than eleven million euros, from billionaire August von Finck.
CSU boss Markus Söder wants to clean up, the party executive decided on Friday to stricter transparency rules for everyone. But with the group, which is now afflicted with the greatest distrust, Söder’s clean-up work is probably reaching its limits: with the lawyers.
How tricky it is to get a lawyer to “achieve maximum transparency”, as the CSU is now promising, could already be observed recently when Secretary General Markus Blume got into the hustle and bustle. When a journalist wanted to know whether the CSU’s new transparency also meant that lawyers had to disclose their mandates? One does not want things that are unacceptable to happen “under the guise of confidentiality”, said Blume. “That’s where high rights clash.” Here is the right of citizens to political transparency, there is mandate secrecy. Look for a “suitable method”.
Difficult, thinks Schmid. The mandate secrecy does not serve the MPs “to cover up and sweat”, but their clients. “An important component of the rule of law.” As a consequence, he considers the fact that a member of parliament who works as a lawyer discloses the data of his clients “to be unconstitutional”. Not only Schmid sees it that way, constitutional law experts say similarly. Because a lawyer who cannot guarantee confidentiality would probably no longer have clients. Banning a member of parliament from his part-time job is also not possible. There is a good reason why not only professional politicians should sit in parliament: Politics needs experts who are technically up to date. So what can be done to ensure that no more conflicts of interest can be hidden under the guise of mandate secrecy?
One has to be fair: It would be presumptuous to claim that lawyers are more prone to mixing up interests than teachers or architects. But you don’t get to know anything if you want to find out who Josef Schmid is representing on the Landtag homepage. One reads: Mandate 01, Mandate 02 – Schmid says “monthly level three”. Means: Income between 7001 and 15,000 euros, quite imprecise. Here, too, Söder wants more transparency, “I think that’s absolutely right and good,” says Schmid. He is ready to disclose additional income “on the penny and penny” – instead of in stages with a publication upper limit of 250,000 euros (stage ten). “But you can never write the client in, that just doesn’t work.”
“Then the citizen thinks: My God, what they deserve!”
What you can still read on the homepage of the state parliament: Schmid is a member of the building committee. Also a conflict of interest? As a lawyer, Schmid also advises private entrepreneurs on drawing up development plans. He emphasizes that there are no conflicts of interest with him. And that he was ready to leave the committee. But how should that work then: a building committee without experts?
Ernst Weidenbusch (CSU) is one of the high earners among the lawyers in the state parliament. The Munich Vice District Administrator and President of the Bavarian Hunting Association has a law firm. Level ten a year. This includes: He is the syndic of the Lotto-Toto-Fachverband Bayern. Weidenbusch said this week, in the course of burgeoning debates, the Bayerischer Rundfunk and on SZ request: “I think that people have a right to know who could influence my behavior, especially through the inflow of funds.” When working as a lawyer, after deducting costs, he comes to an average of 6500 euros per month.
But, despite all disclosure: “Banning any form of paid advocacy would mean a ban on lawyers from working because lawyers’ legal practice is always paid advocacy.” That is why it still has to be regulated in detail – “I have nothing to hide”. If you ask around in the state parliament, the name Weidenbusch comes up quite often. The Lotto Association is close to the state, and it has not been remembered when it comes to legislation on gambling – “Strictly speaking, this is where the debate starts,” says a member of parliament with an insight into the sphere. For outsiders, in such cases, “the conflict of interest is clearly obvious”.
Anyone who speaks to Horst Arnold, SPD parliamentary group leader and lawyer, receives a short lecture. He wants to take a closer look, “without foaming at the mouth”, with the risk that he will “look like a bore”. Arnold speaks about legal confidentiality as an “essential function in the rule of law”, about the “area of tension” with the good of transparency. Lawyers would have to resolve conflicts of interest in advance and not accept mandates or consulting jobs. Problem: What about law firms?
He also sees problems with the information. That is sales, without taxes, operating costs, employees. “Then the citizen thinks: My God, what they deserve!” However, profit statements are only available at the end of the financial year. CSU man Schmid therefore suggests that it is better to disclose the income from the tax returns of the MPs. Next problem for SPD man Arnold: If there is a quasi professional ban for lawyers, what about “reintegration” after a mandate? With the deterrence of quality personnel?
It was Söder’s turn that had to be worked out “thoroughly and consensually” with the parliamentary groups. Difficult “in the battle”. But necessary, otherwise “politicians will have a case every six months”. By the way, Arnold says that he has not accepted a mandate for two years. As a member of parliament and group leader, there is not enough time.